This past Thursday, August 19, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the following during his morning news conference: “Jorge Ramos came around here to say that my government has the record for the most murders. False. Fortunately.”
True. Unfortunately. The numbers show the López Obrador government has the highest murder rate in the modern history of Mexico: 95 per day. That's a record. And if there's no change, his government will soon pass the total number of homicides during the presidential terms of Enrique Peña Nieto and Felipe Calderón. Outside the bubble surrounding the National Palace, the country is not seeing the “peace and tranquility” the president touts.
Here's my answer to the president's most recent statements.
Since López Obrador was sworn in – Dec. 1 2018 to this June 30 – 89,064 Mexicans were murdered. To make sure there's no doubt, I am using the official numbers published by the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Safety System.
No other recent government has had so many daily murders on average as López Obrador's. Let's compare the homicides of the last three governments:
- López Obrador 89,064 in 31 months (Dec. 2018 to June 2021), or 95 murders per day.
- Enrique Peña Nieto 125,508 in 72 months (2012-2018), or 58 murders per day.
- Felipe Calderón 121,683 in 72 months (2006-2012), or 56 murders per day.
How did we go from 56 or 58 daily homicides to 95? That is a sad record, which no one can be proud of. According to those numbers – based on official data and the Baker Institute at Rice University for the Calderón years – the AMLO government will soon have more homicides than any other. And he's been president less than three years. If it keeps up, the numbers by the end of his six-year term in 2024 will be terrifying.
The president has repeated many times that he gets up at 5 am and meets at 6 am with his security ministers to analyze the lack of security around the country. Of course we're grateful for the work and the early wake up hours. But meetings do not guarantee positive results.
The president points out, correctly, that there's no longer a strong upward trend in murders, compared to the two years before he was sworn in. “If you look at 2017 and 2018, if you look at it in detail, it's an increase of about 15 to 20 percent,” he said during the news conference Thursday. It's true, the increase is no longer so drastic. But the problem – the very grave problem – is that the massacres, the murders of women and the homicides in the country have stabilized at extremely high levels. It's like looking at something while hanging upside down at the top of a mountain.
Clearly, AMLO's policy of abrazos, no balazos – hugs, not bullets – has failed. Also failed is the creation of the National Guard, which broke an initial promise that the crisis would be handled by civilians.
What's more, the rapid militarization of the country is very worrisome. What happened to AMLO's 2012 promise that he would return the military to its barracks in the first six months of his government?
The principal duty of a president is to protect the lives of his citizens. In that sense, López Obrador has been a crushing failure. And we're not even talking about his ineffective and confusing handling of the pandemic.
It would be good if the president was right and his government was not the most violent in memory. But that's not the way it is. The numbers – his own homicide numbers – say something different and show areas of the country with very dangerous absence of authority.
The worst part is that if the president does not accept that his strategy has failed, he will keep making the same mistake. And that will cost many more lives.
I have been at three of his morning news conferences, and I appreciate the opportunity to ask the president questions directly. But that is not the best format to delve deeply into these problems. I know the president no longer grants interviews, but I am taking this opportunity to ask for one. It wouldn't be the first. Just tell me the place and time and I will be there. I have the numbers.